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Nuclear News - 12/6/2012
PGS Nuclear News, December 6, 2012
Compiled By: Pia Ulrich

A.  Nuclear Cooperation
    1. IAEA to Help Vietnam Improve Nuclear Power, Vietnam Net (12/6/2012)
    2. Russia to Help IAEA to Search for Nuclear Weapons, Konstantin Garibov, The Voice of Russia (12/5/2012)
    3. China, Russia Ink Agreements on Energy Cooperation, Xinhua News Agency (12/5/2012)
    4. Obama Calls on Russia to Update Nuclear Deal,, AFP (12/4/2012)
    5. UN Calls on Israel to Open Nuclear Facilities, Edith M. Lederer, Associated Press (12/4/2012)
B.  Nuclear Safety & Security
    1. Parts With False Papers Supplied to Two More Nuclear Reactors, Yonhap News Agency (12/5/2012)
    2. IAEA Chief Calls for Action to Improve Nuclear Security, IAEA (12/5/2012)
    3. Nuclear Power Whistleblowers Charge Federal Regulators With Favoring Secrecy over Safety, Tom Zeller, Jr. , Huffington Post (12/4/2012)
    4. National Nuclear Security Agency Boosts Radioactive Material Modeling Abilities, Enformable (12/4/2012)
C.  Nuclear Energy
    1. France Committed to Problem-Hit Nuclear Reactor: PM, AFP (12/6/2012)
    2. Czech, Hungarian Presidents for Nuclear Power Plants’ Expansion, Energy Tribune (12/5/2012)
    3. EDF ExtendsLife of Two Nuclear Power Stations, The Independent (12/4/2012)
D.  Iran
    1. Iran–North Korea: Cooperation in Nuclear Missiles?, Vladimir Sazhin, Voice of Russia (12/5/2012)
    2. Iranian Nuclear Bomb Would Trigger Arms Race - Iran Ex-Official, Reuters (12/5/2012)
    3. Swede Charged With Shipment to Iran, UPI (12/4/2012)
E.  Japan
    1. Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Body Decides to Have 3 Foreign Advisers, Power Engineering (12/6/2012)
    2. TEPCO Brings Fukushima No. 4 Reactor Fuel Assembly Removal Forward to 2014, Japan Today  (12/4/2012)
F.  Links of Interest
    1. Remarks by the President at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Symposium, Office of Press Secretary, White House (12/3/2012)

A.  Nuclear Cooperation

IAEA to Help Vietnam Improve Nuclear Power
Vietnam Net
(for personal use only)

Mr. Hoang Anh Tuan, Deputy Director of the Atomic Energy Agency, said development of nuclear power infrastructure is an important issue with many difficulties and challenges, especially for the countries that just starts the nuclear power program as Vietnam, due to lack of experience and highly qualified experts.

At the meeting yesterday morning, Mr. Park Jong Kyun, director of IAEA nuclear department confirmed that IAEA comes to Vietnam to consider and assess the current state of the process of preparation to build a nuclear power program in Vietnam, then make recommendations.

"In 2009, we also sent a delegation to study the infrastructure program in Vietnam. I saw that Vietnam has made much progress since that date. Hopefully in the future, you will follow our recommendations to get better results," he said.

The process of development of nuclear power infrastructure, according to IAEA, consists of three phases.

Phase 1 consists of the review before making a decision on the nuclear program, known as the pre-project phase, which ends when the country is committed to a nuclear power program.

Phase 2 includes the preparation of all aspects for the construction of nuclear power plants, feasibility studies, opening tenders and starting the construction of the plant.

Phase 3 consists of the construction activity and it ends when the first nuclear power plant is put into operation.

According to the criteria of IAEA, Vietnam is now in the second stage of the development of nuclear power infrastructure.

Tuan said Vietnam has made significant progress in some areas of the infrastructure development process, such as the national availability and consent of the people.

"But there are still a number of other important contents where Vietnam does not meet the requirements of the IAEA. It is the lack of experts, legal system and location assessment. We are actively improving these issues," Tuan said.

Tuan hoped that the IAEA will join Vietnam to make an assessment of each of the issues related to nuclear power infrastructure.

The IAEA team will work in Vietnam until December 14.

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China, Russia Ink Agreements on Energy Cooperation
Xinhua News Agency
(for personal use only)

China and Russia on Wednesday inked four agreements on energy cooperation.

Following the 9th China-Russia energy negotiators' meeting that opened earlier in the day, the two sides signed a memorandum of understanding in cooperation on energy market assessment, a roadmap on cooperation in the coal sector, the minutes of the meeting on coal cooperation and an agreement on electricity supply.

The four documents were aimed at further enhancing energy cooperation between China and Russia, which has by now yielded fruitful results.

During the meeting which was co-chaired by Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, the two sides agreed to start oil and natural gas cooperation following the principle of upstream and downstream integration.

They also agreed to further expand coal and power trade, undertake research on energy reservation and promote the application of renewable energy.

They will sign an official inter-governmental protocol on the second phase of the TianWan Nuclear Power Plant and push forward cooperation in space nuclear power among other spheres.

Since the establishment of the China-Russia energy negotiation mechanism in 2008, the two sides have held eight official meetings and two working meetings, which facilitated bilateral energy cooperation and generated fruits, said the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The two sides witnessed fruitful results in energy cooperation this year, according to Chinese National Energy Administration. In the field of oil, the China-Russia crude oil pipeline is functioning smoothly. It is expected that China will import 15 million metric tons of crude oil from the neighboring country in 2012.

Meanwhile, the two countries made progress and showed good momentum in nuclear power cooperation, oil and gas exploration, said the energy administration, adding they also made achievements in the integrated exploration of coal resources among others.

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Russia to Help IAEA to Search for Nuclear Weapons
Konstantin Garibov
The Voice of Russia
(for personal use only)

Russian nuclear experts are creating a unique tool which will help the inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to detect undeclared development of nuclear weapon. It a reference sample of an isotope of plutonium 244.

This reference sample will enable experts to define the composition of the substances which were collected by the inspectors of the agency on the sites they inspected. These can be dust particles in the equipment or ground samples taken on the site of a facility which is suspected of developing nuclear weapon.

The isotope tool will be produced by the Federal nuclear center in Sarov. The IAEA will send it the initial material (plutonium) for enrichment. After that the Khloponin radium institute will certify the samples and send them to the analytical laboratories of the IAEA, which are in charge for checking the samples of substances inspectors collect when visiting nuclear objects in different countries.

It is not for the first time when Russian nuclear experts provide their advanced developments to the IAEA, chief of the laboratory of analytical radiation chemistry of the Khloponin radium institute Yury Panteleev says.

"The problem of this material is its high production costs. It is very difficult to produce it. But Russia has the technology for it. It is an expensive process. But the material is very convenient for the analysis of samples. With the help of this material it is possible to determine any type of plutonium."

According to Russia’s nuclear agency corporation Rosatom, which is reliable partner of the IAEA, the agency is very interested in that material. According to the international experts it is the best material for the analysis of samples. The matter is that the products which are developed by nuclear reactors lack plutonium 244. That means that like a usual thermometer, it can serve as an ideal material for spectrometric analysis.

Today the IAEA laboratories are using less expensive samples of plutonium and uranium as tools for detection of sites of illegal nuclear weapons development. Some of these samples are also produced in Russia.

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Obama Calls on Russia to Update Nuclear Deal,
(for personal use only)

US President Barack Obama on Monday called on Russia to join him as an equal partner in updating a nuclear non-proliferation deal, after Moscow opted not to extend it earlier this year.

Russian officials said in October that they had notified Washington that the Nunn-Lugar program, which disposed of thousands of Soviet-era warheads and missiles, would not be extended when it expires in May.

The decision was seen as the latest challenge to the "reset" of relations Obama engineered with Russia early in his first term, ties that are now in a new era under the returning President Vladimir Putin.

But Obama said Monday that he was ready to talk to Russia about a new version of the 20-year pact, as he honored its founders, Republican Senator Richard Lugar and former Democratic senator Sam Nunn.

"Russia has said that our current agreement hasn't kept pace with the changing relationship between our countries," Obama said at the event in Washington.

"To which we say, let's update it. Let's work with Russia as an equal partner. Let's continue the work that's so important to the security of both our countries. And I'm optimistic that we can."

US diplomats started talking to Russia about renewing the US-financed program in July, but Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow wanted to end it.

Lugar, who is leaving the Senate after losing a Republican primary challenge, traveled to Russia in August to talk about extending the deal.

The Nunn-Lugar plan was created in 1992 after the breakup of the Soviet Union amid worries over the fate of its vast arsenal of nuclear as well as chemical and biological weapons.

It began with an effort to safeguard materials by improving security at nuclear complexes and graduated to decommissioning work.

Ryabkov suggested that Moscow was starting to feel constrained by the deal because it gave Washington access to sensitive information about its weapons that Moscow could not get about America's nuclear arsenal.

Lugar says the scheme has deactivated 7,610 strategic nuclear warheads and destroyed 902 intercontinental ballistic missiles and 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles along with 684 submarine-launched ballistic missiles, among other stockpiles that have been eliminated.

The decision not to renew the Nunn-Lugar program came weeks after the Kremlin asked a key US democracy development organization to leave Moscow in the latest deterioration in relations under Putin.

USAID was ordered out of the country over accusations it supported opposition leaders who helped organize a wave of demonstrations against Putin.

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UN Calls on Israel to Open Nuclear Facilities
Edith M. Lederer
Associated Press
(for personal use only)

The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on Israel to quickly open its nuclear program for inspection and backing a high-level conference to ban nuclear weapons from the Middle East which was just canceled.

All the Arab nations and Iran had planned to attend the conference in mid-December in Helsinki, Finland, but the United States announced on Nov. 23 that it wouldn't take place, citing political turmoil in the region and Iran's defiant stance on nonproliferation. Iran and some Arab nations countered that the real reason for the cancellation was Israel's refusal to attend.

The resolution, approved Monday by a vote of 174-6 with 6 abstentions, calls on Israel to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty "without further delay" and open its nuclear facilities to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Those voting "no" were Israel, the U.S., Canada, Marshall Islands, Micronesia and Palau.
Resolutions adopted by the 193-member General Assembly are not legally binding but they do reflect world opinion and carry moral and political weight.

Israel refuses to confirm or deny it has nuclear bombs though it is widely believed to have a nuclear arsenal. It has refused to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, or NPT, along with three nuclear weapon states — India, Pakistan and North Korea.

The Arab proposal to create a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Mideast, and to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared arsenal of perhaps 80 nuclear warheads, was endorsed at an NPT conference in 1995 but never acted on. In 2010, the 189 parties to the 1970 treaty called for convening a conference in 2012 on the establishment of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East.

The resolution, which was approved by the assembly's disarmament committee before the conference was cancelled, noted the decision to hold it "with satisfaction."

But Israel has long said there first must be a Mideast peace agreement before the establishment of a Mideast zone free of weapons of mass destruction. The region's Muslim nations argue that Israel's undeclared nuclear arsenal presents the greatest threat to peace in the region.

The Israeli government had no immediate comment on Monday's General Assembly vote.

Last week, the General Assembly upgraded the Palestinians to that of a nonmember observer state, endorsing an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Just before Monday's vote, Iranian diplomat Khodadad Seifi told the assembly "the truth is that the Israeli regime is the only party which rejected to conditions for a conference." He called for "strong pressure on that regime to participate in the conference without any preconditions."

Israeli diplomat Isi Yanouka said his country has continuously pointed to the danger of nuclear proliferation in the Mideast, singling out Iran and Syria by name.

"All these cases challenge Israel's security and cast a dark shadow at the prospect of embarking on a meaningful regional security process," he said.

"The fact that the sponsors include in this anti-Israeli resolution language referring to the 2012 conference proves above all the ill-intent of the Arab states with regard to this conference," Yanouka said.

Syrian diplomat Abdullah Hallak told the assembly his government was angry that the conference wasn't going to take place because of "the whim of just one party, a party with nuclear warheads."

"We call on the international community to put pressure on Israel to accept the NPT, get rid of its arsenal and delivery systems, in order to allow for peace and stability in our region," he said.

The conference's main sponsors are the U.S., Russia and Britain. British Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt has said it is being postponed, not cancelled.

While the United States voted against the resolution, it voted in favor of two paragraphs in it that were put to separate votes. Both support universal adherence to the NPT, and call on those countries that aren't parties to ratify it "at the earliest date." The only "no" votes on those paragraphs were Israel and India.

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B.  Nuclear Safety & Security

IAEA Chief Calls for Action to Improve Nuclear Security
(for personal use only)

The first International Regulators Conference on Nuclear Security is convening in Washington, D.C. from 4 to 6 December 2012, hosted by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Organized as a direct result of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul, South Korea, the International Regulators Conference on Nuclear Security enhances awareness of the importance of comprehensive national regulatory security programs, and builds relationships among regulatory authorities responsible for nuclear and radioactive materials security.

Regulators from around the world are discussing how to enhance regulatory approaches for security at civilian facilities. They are also considering the means to establish and maintain a strong, independent legal and regulatory framework, supported by technically skilled personnel and adequate resources to protect and secure nuclear and radioactive materials.

In his address to the nuclear regulators, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said that the ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials was an "important area of unfinished business in nuclear security." The Amendment, agreed seven years ago, but as yet not in force, expands the Convention's coverage beyond the physical protection of nuclear material in international transport to include the protection of nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport, as well as the protection of nuclear facilities against acts of sabotage.

"The Amendment's entry into force would make an important difference to global nuclear security by enhancing national security frameworks and international cooperation," the Director General stressed and said he was doing all he could to help make it happen.

Since terrorists and other criminals do not respect international borders and no country can respond effectively on its own to the threat which they pose, the Director General noted that international cooperation is vital. In his address, the Director General detailed the IAEA's work in helping to minimize the risk of nuclear and other radioactive material falling into the hands of terrorists, or of nuclear facilities being subjected to malicious acts. "For instance, we make it more difficult for criminals and terrorists to traffic nuclear and radioactive material across borders," he said, describing how the IAEA helps Member States by providing detection equipment at border crossings and training border guards.

In July 2013, the IAEA will host an International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna. The Director General informed the regulators that it would be one of the most important meetings that the IAEA will host in 2013 and he encouraged all countries to participate at ministerial level to underline the growing international political commitment to achieving tangible improvements in nuclear security.

The Director General noted that the "United States has been a very important partner in the IAEA's nuclear security activities right from the start." It is the largest donor to the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund, actively supports IAEA nuclear security programmes and is providing funding, equipment and training to other Member States.

The IAEA helps countries to put laws and regulatory infrastructure in place to protect nuclear and other radioactive material. The IAEA's internationally accepted guidance and standards are used as a benchmark for nuclear security. Through expert peer review missions, specialist training and human resource development programmes, the IAEA helps countries apply the standards, as well as strengthen physical security at nuclear, industrial or medical facilities where nuclear or other radioactive material is stored, or while it is being transported. IAEA experts help ensure that radioactive sources, which were not properly secured, were transported either to a safe and secure national storage facility, or repatriated to their country of origin. With the IAEA's help, a considerable amount of high enriched uranium has been placed into more secure storage. In the past ten years, the IAEA has provided nuclear security training to over 12 000 people in more than 120 countries in nuclear security.

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Parts With False Papers Supplied to Two More Nuclear Reactors
Yonhap News Agency
(for personal use only)

The state auditor said Wednesday that it found that hundreds of parts with fabricated documents had been supplied to two nuclear reactors in the southeastern port city of Busan, but did not mention whether they posed a threat to nuclear safety.

According to the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI), the Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power Co., the state-run operator of nuclear power plants, last year bought a total of 966 parts that had fabricated test results, to be used in two reactors at the Gori Nuclear Power Plant.

One supplier fabricated 83 different documents for 961 parts worth 10.95 billion won (US$10.13 million). The other five parts, worth 470 million won, provided by a different supplier, were accompanied by four forged documents and were constructed from unapproved material, the BAI said, announcing the results of an inspection conducted between April and June.

The revelations come one month after the government said a number of suppliers had been funneling "unproven" parts into the country's nuclear reactors by fabricating quality warranties.

In response the government said there was no threat of radiation leaks as the parts, including fuses and power switches, were unrelated to the reactor itself.

South Korea currently operates 23 nuclear reactors.

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National Nuclear Security Agency Boosts Radioactive Material Modeling Abilities
(for personal use only)

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced in November 2012, that in response to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster they would install a 336-processor computing cluster at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

The new National Atmospheric Release Advisory Center (NARAC) cluster would allow the agency to model accelerated predictions of how radioactive materials move through the atmosphere and terrain after release. NARAC generates maps which display the predicted deposition of radioactive materials using current or forecast weather conditions and complex atmospheric transport and dispersion models, and refines initial predictions using field measurement data.

NARAC is used by emergency officials to decide if taking protective action is necessary to protect the health and safety of people in affected areas.

NARAC was used in 2011 to model the release of radioactive materials from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. With the new cluster installation, 3-D calculation of radioactive material transported from Japan to the U.S. that required almost three hours of computer time can now be run in less than three minutes.

Additional software modifications are planned to provide results even faster in the future, said NNSA.

“I am very pleased to announce the completion of important hardware upgrades to the NARAC computing cluster,” said Joseph Krol, associate administrator for Emergency Operations. “Lessons learned from the Fukushima response highlighted the importance of providing rapid atmospheric modeling products to a variety of users, from responders in Japan, to senior level policy makers in D.C. This strategic investment will allow us to continue to address all of their needs and advance this vital national capability.”

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Nuclear Power Whistleblowers Charge Federal Regulators With Favoring Secrecy over Safety
Tom Zeller, Jr.
Huffington Post
(for personal use only)

Richard H. Perkins and Larry Criscione are precise and formal men with more than 20 years of combined government and military service. Perkins held posts at the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration before joining the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Division of Risk Analysis in 2008. Criscione landed at the agency a year later, after five years aboard the USS Georgia as a submarine warfare officer.

Now both men are also reluctant whistleblowers, stepping out publicly to accuse the NRC of being both disconcertingly sluggish and inappropriately secretive about severe -- and in one case, potentially catastrophic -- flood risks at nuclear plants that sit downstream from large dams.

A number of nuclear safety advocates who have looked into the matter in recent weeks have echoed their complaints, and a collection of documents obtained by The Huffington Post -- including a 4-year old internal communication plan for NRC officials seeking to head-off criticism of its handling of the dam threat, as well as detailed correspondence between Criscione and NRC leadership on the issue -- appears to lend credence to the engineers' concerns.

Taken together, the documents and charges shed new light on an agency that has been repeatedly criticized for allowing plant owners to delay crucial safety improvements for years, and for diligently withholding information not as a way of protecting the public interest, but as a way of protecting itself.

"When you're working with sensitive information, you just don't talk about it, so what I'm doing I find to be both perverse and uncomfortable," Perkins said. "But I had to do it."

The NRC argues that it has worked swiftly and diligently to address the safety issue that prompted the engineers to speak out, which concerns the risk that certain nuclear power plants would experience severe and potentially catastrophic flooding should nearby dams succumb to mechanical or engineering failures -- or even to the increasingly unpredictable whims of Mother Nature.

Further investigation of the issue is underway, the NRC says, as part of an industry-wide review of U.S. plants sparked by the earthquake and tsunami that caused multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns at a facility in Fukushima, Japan last year. Details relating to the flood threat have been appropriately withheld, sometimes over many years, the agency says, in order to prevent terrorists or other nefarious actors from somehow exploiting it.

Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the NRC, calls the matter one of incomplete context.

"It's fair to say that when you draw a Venn diagram of safety issues and security issues, you will find areas of overlap where the line might not be as bright as one might think when looking at the situation from the outside," Burnell said. "If you don't have the full context it can be very difficult to draw that bright line."

But Perkins and Criscione, who raised alarms on the issue independently of one another, say they believe that defense is bogus, and that the agency is invoking security concerns in order to hide its failure to address a persistent and well-understood safety threat.

"It is hypocritical for the NRC -- or any government agency -- under the guise of security, to withhold information from the American public concerning a potentially significant public safety vulnerability, yet take no real action to study and correct the supposed security vulnerability," Criscione said. "If we believe there is a security vulnerability, we need to take measures to address it and not merely withhold it from public discussion."

Perkins was tasked in 2010 with spearheading what he says was always supposed to become a publicly available review of the dam-flood threat at U.S. nuclear power plants. Instead, he says, NRC management pushed back almost immediately to exclude certain information from the analysis.

As a career government employee accustomed to the careful handling of nuclear-related information, Perkins says the static came as a surprise. In his estimation, none of the information he and his team had compiled would normally be withheld from the public, though he added that he could not discuss specifics without jeopardizing his job.

When the report was completed and shared internally at the NRC in July 2011, Perkins said he felt he had ultimately prevailed in keeping most of the information he considered pertinent in the report. But he was chagrined when a public version was released last March with substantial portions of the document blacked out.

The NRC has argued that the redactions were appropriate, and made in consultation with other government agencies, but Perkins is skeptical.

"Our mandate is to promote safety, and sometimes that involves withholding information for security's sake," Perkins said. "To keep bad people from knowing how best to attack us, say, or to prevent our adversaries from knowing how we might come after them, or to buy time while a serious vulnerability is corrected. These are all reasons that you might redact information," he continued. "But the redactions by the NRC did not promote safety in any of these ways. The actions have, in fact, allowed a very dangerous scenario to continue unaddressed for years."

An unredacted version of Perkins's report, obtained by The Huffington Post in October, revealed that much of the blacked-out information was publicly available in other documents and websites already published online, including simple maps of where nuclear plants stood in relation to upstream dams or the height of flood walls designed to protect safety equipment. Threats of varying significance were identified in Perkins's analysis at the Ft. Calhoun station in Nebraska, the Prairie Island facility in Minnesota and the Watts Bar plant in Tennessee, among more than two-dozen others.

The document also cited analyses by Duke Energy, owner of the Oconee Nuclear Station in South Carolina, that were performed as far back as the early 1990s, suggesting that the NRC had known for some time about the flood threats. Those analyses showed that the 5-foot flood wall protecting crucial safety equipment at Oconee would prove inadequate in the event of a catastrophic failure of the Jocassee Dam, located 11 miles upstream on Lake Keowee. If that dam failed completely, the report suggested, floodwaters as high as 16.8 feet would inundate the Oconee facility, and a meltdown would be a virtual certainty.

A timeline released by the NRC on Thursday in response to a Freedom of Information Act request suggests that the agency was aware of the dam flood threat at Oconee as far back as 1994, but over the following two decades, Duke repeatedly said it regarded the odds of the Jocassee Dam failing as exceedingly slim.

NRC staff continued to raise concerns with Duke over that long time period, but at no time did the agency threaten to shut the facility down, or otherwise force the company to fully assess and correct what appeared to be a risk of unusually high magnitude. By 2008, NRC had even prepared an internal communications plan to deal with potential questions relating to the vulnerability, which was still unaddressed.

The plan, a heavily redacted version of which was released this week by the NRC in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, suggests that by at least 2005, NRC staff had "discovered that the licensee had erroneously computed a random rupture frequency for the Jocassee Dam, a frequency significantly lower than what could be justified based on actual data." The communications plan also revealed that virtually all plants facing similar threats from upstream dams -- nearly three dozen -- had used Duke's faulty arithmetic as a guide in predicting their own vulnerabilities.

By NRC's own calculus -- which was blacked out in the public release of Perkins's report -- the odds of failure in any given year of a large rock-fill dam like the one at Jocassee were about 1 in 3,600. For the Oconee plant, that amounted to a 1 in 163 chance of a catastrophic flood in any one of the 22 years remaining on its operating license -- a risk the agency itself described as being "an order of magnitude larger" than Duke's estimate.

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer and safety advocate with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Cambridge, Mass.-based advocacy group, calculated that the 34 reactors highlighted in Perkins's analysis are downstream from a total of more than 50 dams -- half of them roughly the size of the Jocassee Dam. "Assuming the NRC’s failure rate applies to all of those dams," Lochbaum noted in an analysis posted to the group's web site, "the probability that one will fail in the next 40 years is roughly 25 percent -- a 1 in 4 chance."

The NRC told The Huffington Post that ongoing re-analysis of flooding hazards from all sources -- required by the NRC as part of its post-Fukushima safety analysis -- "will determine whether any additional mitigation measures or plant modifications are required for every U.S. nuclear power plant." And both Duke Energy and the NRC have repeatedly insisted in interviews that steps have been taken to ensure the safety of the Oconee facility. "Not every solution to an issue is visible to the general public," said Burnell, the NRC spokesman, who added that the agency cannot discuss information that was officially redacted from Perkins's report.

"Duke’s actions to date, both at Oconee and Jocassee," Burnell said, "continue to show the plant can keep the public safe if something occurs at Jocassee."

Sandra J. Magee, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, said the company is continuing to look at flood protection enhancements with the NRC through the industry-wide response to recommendations made by the NRC's post-Fukushima Near-Term Task Force. "Oconee is in compliance with the station's licensing basis for external flood events," Magee said. "We have anticipated the maximum flooding scenario and the plant has the means to safely shutdown and cool the reactor units."

But nuclear safety advocates have questioned these assertions -- particularly given that the NRC continues to redact and withhold key information related to the threat. "You can't have it both ways," said Lochbaum, who reviewed the un-censored version of Perkins report and concluded that the redactions were spurious. "If it was a true security threat, the NRC and the operator would be obliged to quickly remove the threat. If they had done that at any point over the last 15 years, there would be no need for redactions.

"Google searches will turn up plenty of pictures of Jocassee from the air and ground," Lochbaum added. "I did a YouTube search and even came across a 10-minute documentary about building the dam."

Jim Riccio, a nuclear analyst with the environmental group Greenpeace, which first obtained the unredacted version of Perkins' report, said the emerging paper trail has eroded the NRC's credibility on the issue. "The Commission has failed its most basic mission to adequately protect public health and safety," Riccio said, "and it cannot be trusted to speak honestly about the risks that nuclear power poses."

"Google searches will turn up plenty of pictures of Jocassee from the air and ground," said nuclear safety advocate David Lochbaum.

The internal dissonance was not lost on Perkins, and he says he began to suspect that his agency's circumspection on the dam risk issue had more to do with protecting the commercial operators it oversees -- and perhaps its own regulatory reputation, given the many years the threat has existed.

By September, Perkins says he felt it was his duty to speak out. He submitted a letter to the NRC's Office of the Inspector General, the agency's internal watchdog, charging that that the NRC was essentially involved in a cover-up.

"The Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff may be motivated to prevent the disclosure of this safety information to the public because it will embarrass the agency," Perkins wrote. "The redacted information includes discussion of, and excerpts from, NRC official agency records that show the NRC has been in possession of relevant, notable, and derogatory safety information for an extended period but failed to properly act on it. Concurrently, the NRC concealed the information from the public."

In an interview last week, Perkins said he has no knowledge of the status of any probe that might have been launched by the IG. Officials at the IG's office say they cannot discuss ongoing investigations.

Perkins did share a copy of his letter with his congresswoman, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.), whose spokesman, Dan Weber, said it was forwarded by Edwards's office to the NRC's chairwoman. "Rep. Edwards requested responses to the concerns raised in the letter and to be kept informed regarding any action taken," Weber said. "The NRC confirmed receipt of Rep. Edwards’ request and we’re awaiting their response."

When asked whether any part of him believes there could be a legitimate reason for NRC to keep parts of his report from the public, Perkins became animated. "I could so easily answer this question -- I'm dying to answer that question," he said. "But I cannot answer that question without going into the area that I am not allowed to talk about.

"I will say that, when you're a regulator, and you're dealing with these safety issues, the public not only should be able to watch what you're doing, they actually must, in accordance with the law, be able to see what you're doing," Perkins added. "We don't work for nuclear operators, after all. We work for the American people."

Criscione was not directly involved in Perkins's review of the dam risk issue, but when that review was first floated in early 2010 within NRC's risk analysis division, where Criscione works, he began following its progress keenly. In explaining his interest in the topic, he points to decades spent working and camping at -- and later taking his family to -- the Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park in the Missouri Ozarks, one of the most popular outdoor recreation areas in the Midwest.

In December 2005, the Taum Sauk hydroelectric reservoir above that campsite broke through its impoundment and sent roughly 1 billion gallons of water and a 20-foot tidal wave roaring down from Proffit Mountain. The 12-minute deluge completely destroyed the camping area, shaved a gargantuan swath of thick forest to bare rock and dirt, destroyed the home of the park superintendent and dragged him and his family for a quarter mile.

"The destruction at the site was incredible," federal investigators noted at the time. "All of the trees in the path of the flowing water were stripped off the earth's surface. What remained were large rocks and exposed bedrock surfaces. The flowing water removed soil from the valley floor, and created large scour holes."

While sustaining numerous injuries, the superintendent and his family survived, and the campsite, given the chilly time of year, was otherwise deserted. But the incident stuck with Criscione, a mathematical man who says he recognized a could-have-been-me moment in the disaster. It was eventually attributed to improperly placed and malfunctioning sensors that allowed the reservoir to fill beyond safe levels. When he learned of the dam issue facing the nation's nuclear power plants, Criscione says he felt compelled to make certain the threat was clearly understood by the American people, even if it meant risking his job.

"One of the most unfortunate aspects about safety is that when an engineer does stand his ground and sacrifices his career over a safety concern -- and by doing so, prevents a disaster -- no one ever knows," Criscione said. "We cannot know of something that did not occur. We cannot know of something that was prevented. Had a technician or engineer gone to the press in November 2005 and got the sensors at Taum Sauk fixed, he would have never known the ordeal from which he spared the superintendent and his family. All he would know is that he pointlessly sabotaged his career due to a tinge of conscience."

After learning of the heavy redactions in Perkins' report, Criscione's own twinge of conscience, he says, prompted him to independently investigate the dam flood risk issue. Four days Perkins after filed his complaint with the Inspector General's office, Criscione dispatched a lengthy letter to the NRC's chairwoman, Allison MacFarlane. The letter included dozens of attachments of unearthed internal correspondence between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and Duke Energy regarding the flood threat at Oconee.

Both the letter and the documents were obtained independently by The Huffington Post, and while Criscione and NRC officials said they could not comment on their contents, they independently confirmed that the materials were genuine and were being addressed internally. The Huffington Post has made Criscione's letter and the attached documents available here.

By itself, Criscione's 19-page letter to NRC leadership provides an exceptionally detailed summary of the flood issue facing Oconee -- and what amounts to more than two decades of dithering by both the licensee and federal regulators. Criscione prefaced his letter by quoting a former Navy admiral, who shepherded the development of the nation's nuclear submarine force:

A major flaw in our system of government, and even in industry, is the latitude to do less than is necessary. Too often officials are willing to accept and adapt to situations they know to be wrong. The tendency is to downplay problems instead of actively trying to correct them.
The archive of attached letters suggests that NRC began nudging the Oconee operators to clarify and address the issue with increasing urgency at least 6 years ago, but that Duke Energy repeatedly pushed back. In a letter sent in September 2008, the company insisted that "there is no evidence to suggest that a Jocassee Dam failure is credible." NRC officials made clear that they did not agree with that assessment, and in a 2009 response to Duke's letter, the agency again laid out its concerns. Among them:

That the plant's critical safety equipment is protected from floods only to a height of 5 feet.
That Duke's own analysis from 1992 showed flood heights from a failure of the Jocassee Dam ranging between 12 and 17 feet.

That Duke's calculations of the odds of a Jocassee Dam failure were low "by an order of magnitude."

But the agency did not take a hard stance and force Duke to rectify the situation immediately -- a timidity that, according to Criscione's letter, sparked internal objections beyond his own and those of Perkins. In one instance in 2009, a protestation was filed by a deputy director within the Division of Risk Assessment, who was quoted as saying, "I remain concerned that this approach is not in the best interest of public health and safety and security, regulatory stability, and our role as a strong regulator."

The deputy director's official objection, called a "non-concurrence" in NRC parlance, further argues:

No other potential initiating event at Oconee is as risk significant. The probability of core damage from a Jocassee Dam failure is three times higher than the sum total probability of core damage from all initiating events. Duke has acknowledged that, given a Jocassee Dam failure with subsequent site inundation, all three Oconee units will go to core damage; that is given a dam failure, the conditional core damage probability is 1.0. ... For a Jocassee Dam failure, using potentially optimistic assumptions, Duke estimates that containment will fail approximately 59 to 68 hours after dam failure without mitigating actions. Under the dam break conditions, resultant flood waters and infrastructure damage would affect public evacuation and potentially affect emergency operations facility response capability. Duke has not demonstrated that its radiological emergency plan actions can be adequately implemented under these conditions.

In his letter to NRC leadership, Criscione underscored the deputy's assertion that "conditional core damage probability," or CCDP, is 1.0.

"Like all probabilities, CCDP must be a number between 0 and 1," Criscione wrote. "A value of 0 means that given only that specific event, there is no chance that core damage will occur. A value of 1 means that given that specific event (e.g. a failure of the Jocassee Dam) then core damage will certainly occur. For most initiating events (e.g. tornadoes, loss of offsite power, fires) the CCDP is typically a very small fraction on the order of one ten-thousandth to one-tenth.

"1.0 might not sound big," he wrote. "But it's enormous."

Asked directly whether, as of today, the Oconee plant could withstand flooding that arises specifically from the wholesale failure of the Jocassee Dam, Scott Burnell, the NRC spokesman, was equivocal. "NRC continues to conclude appropriate actions have been taken at Oconee to address potential flooding issues and that the plant is currently able to safely mitigate flooding events," he said. "Ongoing re-analysis of flooding hazards from all sources, required by the NRC as part of the post-Fukushima lessons learned effort, will determine whether any additional mitigation measures or plant modifications are required for every U.S. nuclear power plant."

Asked in a follow-up whether the "flooding events" the Oconee plant was able to mitigate included the failure of the Jocassee Dam, Burnell would only invoke the same language: "The NRC, with all the information available today, continues to conclude Duke has taken appropriate actions to ensure Oconee can safely mitigate flooding events," Burnell said -- though he added: "That statement in no way precludes additional flood mitigation actions on Duke’s part, and the NRC will ensure any further work, whether based on existing information or the upcoming flooding re-analysis, meets applicable standards to further enhance Oconee's ability to operate safely."

Both Perkins and Criscione remain unconvinced of that -- and both continue to take issue with the NRC's longstanding policy of keeping information relating to the dam threat from the public.

Criscione says he received a minor reprimand from his superiors for releasing his letter to NRC leadership to members of Congress without properly stamping it, as nearly all documentation relating to the dam threat has been, as "Official Use Only." Beyond that, however, he says he has no idea whether his complaints will result in any swifter action.

"If the safety vulnerabilities which the Jocassee Dam poses to the Oconee reactors were being swiftly and adequately addressed, then I would accept the argument that there is no need to publicly broadcast a potential security vulnerability," Criscione said in an interview last week. "But no action, to my knowledge, has been done to address the supposed security vulnerability and the actions taken to address the safety vulnerability have thus far been disjointed and inadequate.

"I believe the reason for this disjointed approach," he added, "is because the withholding of all this information from the public has resulted in there being no public pressure to countermand the pressure exerted on the NRC by Duke Energy."

In his letter to NRC leadership, Criscione notes that the odds of a Jocassee Dam failure, based on NRC calculations, appear to be similar to those of being dealt a straight in a hand of poker -- somewhat rare, but not unthinkable. And Criscione adds that, as a young teenager attending summer camp at that ill-fated campground in Missouri, he drew an even less likely hand -- a flush -- in the first poker hand he was ever dealt.

"My poker career has gone downhill ever since," he wrote, "but I know from personal experience that being dealt a hand that beats a straight is credible."

If that's the case, he reasons, then the potential failure of the Jocassee Dam must be a credible threat as well.

Among the myriad lawmakers to whom Criscione copied his letter to NRC management and its various attachments was Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a long-time crusader for nuclear safety. A Markey spokeswoman confirmed that the congressman's staff has requested and received multiple briefings and background materials from the NRC on the topic in response to Criscione's questions and the documents Markey's office has received over the past several months. Markey also has a long-standing and pending request with Congress's investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, related to the resilience of the nation's nuclear reactors to extreme weather events such as large floods.

"The key question for all five NRC commissioners is whether they will support making all the safety recommendations of the Near-Term Fukushima Task Force," Markey said in an emailed statement, "including those that will address nuclear reactor resiliency to severe earthquakes, floods and other extreme weather, mandatory."

In a wide-ranging hearing on post-Fukushima lessons held this past March before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, lawmakers asked NRC commissioners about a report prepared by David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which said in part that unless the NRC strengthens measures to prevent and mitigate threats that the nation's plants were not designed to withstand, "it may be only a matter of time before a similar disaster happens here."

Several of the commissioners insisted that the UCS was wrong. "I think that our infrastructure, our regulatory approach, our practices at plants, our equipment, our configuration, our design bases would prevent Fukushima from occurring under similar circumstances at a U.S. plant," said commissioner William D. Magwood. "I just don't think it would happen."

Another commissioner, George Apostolakis, concurred. "I disagree with the statements from UCS," he said. "I don't think that what happened in Fukushima can happen here."

Given that the agency has known for years that a tidal wave could be conceivably unleashed from Lake Jocassee should the dam holding it back fail, causing a meltdown nearly identical to what happened in Fukushima, Greenpeace's Jim Riccio suggests that the NRC has essentially been lying to Congress.

"Rather than address the threat, NRC commissioners have misled Congress and delayed action to reduce these risks," Riccio said. "The American people deserve better from the Obama administration's nuclear regulators."

For his part, Criscione says that, while he can't be sure, he suspects that there are engineers not unlike him inside Duke Energy, who may sense a duty to speak out, but are restrained by fear of reprisal.

"They are pushing to get Duke Energy to do the right thing -- but for the sake of their careers, they need to be careful on how hard they push," he said. "I, however, have the luxury of being a union-represented federal employee. Although I, too, need to be careful and diplomatic in my actions, I am in a much better-protected situation than them. It takes a lot of courage for them to come forward, whereas for me it merely requires a little bit of disgust."

Perkins, meanwhile, remains similarly resolute in his convictions that speaking out was the right thing to do, though he's uncertain about whether it will really make a difference.

"It's the two of us against the entire federal government. We're going to try our best -- it's almost an even fight," he joked. "We realize what an incredibly uphill battle we have in front of us. These things never really work out for the whistleblower."

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C.  Nuclear Energy

France Committed to Problem-Hit Nuclear Reactor: PM
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Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Thursday that the French government remains committed to finishing a new-generation nuclear reactor despite further cost overruns.

"The construction will continue right to the end," Ayrault said on RTL radio. "There are difficulties but I think we have to accept that because it is necessary."

French energy group EDF on Monday raised the total cost of its long-delayed new-generation nuclear reactor at Flamanville in western France by 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) to 8.5 billion.

The cost of the facility, slated to begin operations in 2016, is now 5 billion euros more than initially estimated.

Built by Areva and due to be operated by EDF, Flamanville is one of four European Pressurised Reactor projects in the world, including another much-delayed one planned in Finland, whose production date has been delayed indefinitely.

Two other EPR reactors are being built in Taishan in southeastern China.

Ayrault said that as Flamanville is one of the first EPR reactors to be built additional precautions have needed to be taken and the delays have been pushing up the cost.

He noted that safety standards are now higher and that the reactor was being designed to last 60 years, which also implied higher construction costs.

Ayrault also noted that the reactor had its opponents, including from the Greens inside the Socialist-led government, but said "this reactor will be the safest in the world."

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Czech, Hungarian Presidents for Nuclear Power Plants’ Expansion
Energy Tribune
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The Czech Republic and Hungary share the interest in extending their nuclear power plants, the two states’ presidents, Vaclav Klaus and Janos Ader, said Tuesday, adding that Prague and Budapest will decide on their nuclear energy policy independently within the EU and will defend it.

Klaus met Ader at the beginning of his two-day state visit to Hungary.

Klaus has paid a series of visits to the neighbouring countries to say farewell before his second and last possible presidential tenure expires next March.

“If we have sought topics and interests we have in common and issues on which we share the same opinion and which we are capable of promoting jointly, I think that the defence of nuclear energy could be one of such joint interests of Hungary and the Czech Republic in the present very irrationally behavior of Europe,” Klaus told journalists after meeting Ader.

Ader recalled that the Czech Republic, like Hungary, has decided to extend its nuclear power plants.

He said Hungary, which will launch a tender for the extension of its only nuclear power plant, Paks, next week, would like to share the Czech experiences with the previously launched tender for the extension of the Temelin nuclear power plant.

In this area, Hungary is a sovereign country and it decides itself on what it wants to achieve in nuclear energy and what it prefers, Ader said.

He said every government wants to reduce its energy dependence on foreign sources, and that nuclear energy is the crucial domestic source of Hungary.

Last year’s disaster in the Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima provoked a debate in Europe about the future of nuclear energy. Germany decided to completely abandon nuclear energy. The nuclear-free Austria, the neighbour of both Czechs and Hungarians, sharply criticises the idea of nuclear energy expansion as well.

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EDF ExtendsLife of Two Nuclear Power Stations
The Independent
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Two of the UK's oldest nuclear power stations are to remain in use until at least 2023, EDF Energy announced today.

Hinkley Point B near Bridgwater in Somerset and Hunterston B in North Ayrshire started generation in 1976 but have now been given seven-year extensions to their existing decommissioning dates in 2016.

Extending the life of the stations is good news for more than 1,500 staff and contractors at the two plants, while they will continue to generate enough low carbon electricity for around two million homes.

EDF's decision, which follows work with the independent nuclear regulator, comes amid reports that Chancellor George Osborne will announce plans for up to 30 gas-fired power stations in this week's autumn statement.

EDF has eight nuclear power stations in the UK, with the newest being Sizewell B following its opening in 1995. The company is currently working on plans to build a new power station at the Hinkley Point site.

In 2010, five year extensions were granted to the Heysham 1 and Hartlepool stations, taking their likely decommissioning date to 2019.

Chief executive Vincent de Rivaz said: "This decision will provide low carbon energy to keep the lights on in the UK and it will safeguard jobs at the plants, in the UK nuclear industry and its supply chain.

"It follows a thorough review of safety over the lifetime of each of the plants."

He added that extending the plants' lives also brought training and employment opportunities for a new generation of nuclear engineers and operators.

Hinkley Point B and Hunterston B operate at approximately 70% load due to boiler temperature restrictions.

British Gas owner Centrica has a 20% stake in EDF's eight plants and in the project carrying out pre-development work for new build stations.

Alongside the life extension announcement, EDF has also re-opened its visitor centre for Hinkley Point B in nearby Bridgwater town centre.

The Scottish Government is opposed to new nuclear power stations and can effectively veto any UK Government plan to build more north of the border.

The SNP administration wants to phase out nuclear but is not opposed to extending the life of existing stations while making a push for renewable energy to cover the country's electricity needs.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "We have consistently made it clear that nuclear energy will be phased out in Scotland over time, with no new nuclear build taking place in Scotland.

"But we have also consistently made clear that this does not preclude extending the operating life of Scotland's existing nuclear stations to help maintain security of supply over the next decade while the transition to renewables and cleaner thermal generation takes place.

"Subject to the relevant safety cases being made, the Scottish Government would not oppose operating life extension applications at Torness and Hunterston. Scottish Government policy is against new nuclear build."

SNP, Liberal Democrat and Green MSPs voted in 2008 to oppose new-build nuclear stations.

Patrick Harvie MSP, Scottish Green Party co-convener, said: "Scotland doesn't need to sweat its nuclear assets to keep the lights on. This extension shows how light touch regulation is failing us and the Scottish Government shouldn't just wave it through.

"The Scottish Parliament has voted against new nuclear, and it's clear our renewables targets are achievable. Why on earth would we allow EDF to increase our toxic waste legacy and continue the risks of running a plant built in the 60s?"

Dan Barlow, of environmental group WWF Scotland, said: "Nuclear power is the ultimate unsustainable form of energy so it is disappointing that EDF Energy has been granted approval by the UK Government to extend the life of Hunterston."

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D.  Iran

Iran–North Korea: Cooperation in Nuclear Missiles?
Vladimir Sazhin
Voice of Russia
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In North-West of North Korea the installation of all of the three stages of the long-range rocket was completed at the launch platform of the firing ground. The Moscow bureau of the Japanese news agency swore that the information about the visit of the Iranian military specialists to DPRK had been received from reliable diplomatic sources.

In North-West of North Korea the installation of all of the three stages of the long-range rocket was completed at the launch platform of the firing ground. A source in the South Korean government announced that news to the journalists today. Pyongyang has earlier announced that it plans to put into orbit a satellite. However, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reminds its audience that many countries are sure that North Korea is really planning to test it intercontinental ballistic missile able to carry a nuclear warhead. Practically simultaneously the Japanese news agency Kyodo announced that Iran sent a group of military specialists to North Korea for a joint testing of the new ballistic missiles.

The Moscow bureau of the Japanese news agency swore that the information about the visit of the Iranian military specialists to DPRK had been received from reliable diplomatic sources. Many experts believe that the rocket testing in DPRK are in fact secret testing of ballistic technologies, which is prohibited to North Korea by a special UN Security Council resolution.
It is possible that the visit of the Iranian missile specialists is related to that alleged launch. The Iranian military engineers visited DPRK during the unsuccessful launch of the Unha-3 rocket last April. And now in December the Iranians will once again witness the process of preparation for the launch of the same rocket model.

On September 1 this year in Teheran Iran and DPRK signed a treaty on the scientific and technical cooperation. There is no information about the specific directions of that cooperation. But the history of the relations between Pyongyang and Teheran in such sensitive areas of «science and technology» as rocket construction and nuclear studies gives some food for thought.

The Soviet rocket Skad with which the DPRK Army is equipped as well as its North Korean “children” and “grandchildren” served as the springboard for the development of the Iranian rocket technologies and rocket construction as a whole. According to general estimates, in 1991-94 Iran received about 300 Skad rockets of B and C versions from DPRK. And in 1997 Iran launched its own production of a modification of that rocket under the name “Shahab-1” (range of 300 km) and “Shahab-2” (range of 500 km) with the equipment from North Korea. The new rocket “Shahab-3” with the range of 1800 km was based on the North Korean “Nodong-1” rocket. Experts believe that those rockets were designed in DPRK with the financial assistance from Iran. Also, in 2009 it was announced that a group of Iranian experts was sent to North Korea to work on the rocket of the “Taepodong -2” class with the range of 4 000 km.

A tight cooperation between Teheran and Pyongyang is not limited to rocket construction. Iranian nuclear specialists were present at all nuclear tests conducted by North Korea beginning with year 2006.

The following fact is both interesting and demonstrative. The North Korean nuclear program is based on the Plutonium variant, while the Iranian nuclear program is based on Uranium. Naturally, the North Korean testing was based on the Plutonium variant. And suddenly in 2010 according to the reports of the German Die Welt newspaper that referred to a US intelligence source DPRK conducted tests based on the enriched uranium that the Iranian nuclear program is based on. If that report reflects the reality, it means that the Iranian-North Korean cooperation has reached unusual heights. It is worth mentioning that North Korea has already been blamed for helping other countries in the area f nuclear research.

Here is the opinion of Vladimir Yevseev, a military expert and director of the Russian center of social and political studies:

"Iran and North Korea have a lot in common. Both countries are under international sanction due to ignoring the requirements of the UN and IAEA in the nuclear and rocket construction areas. North Korea has moved far in rockets and in nuclear studies. And Iran has prepared sufficiently qualified personnel and has created a good technological base including with the help of the North Korean experience. Especially given the fact that Iran due to its oil revenues has significant financial capabilities (even despite the sanctions), which are limited in North Korea's case. That is why these two countries that have difficulties in dealing with the rest of the world are very much interested in each other."

During the September visit of the North Korean delegation to Teheran Iranian top leader ayatollah Khamenei announced that «both countries must reach the goals they pose to themselves despite the pressure and the sanctions from the enemy forces». What exactly goals did he mean? – this question is now bothering many people. And the upcoming attempt to launch the North Korean rocket only attracts additional attention to that subject.

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Iranian Nuclear Bomb Would Trigger Arms Race - Iran Ex-Official
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A nuclear-armed Iran would cause a regional arms race and make Tehran more isolated and vulnerable, according to a former Iranian negotiator who argues that the Islamic state is not seeking to build nuclear bombs.

Israel and the United States suspect Iran is developing a nuclear arms capability and have not ruled out military action to prevent it from obtaining such weapons of mass destruction.

Iran says it is only seeking nuclear energy. But its refusal to suspend atomic activity which can have both civilian and military applications, and its lack of openness with the U.N. nuclear agency, have drawn tough Western punitive measures.

Former nuclear negotiator Hossein Mousavian, now a visiting scholar at Princeton University in the United States, said Iran recognizes that if it were to become a nuclear weapons state Russia and China would join the United States and "implement devastating sanctions that would paralyze the Iranian economy."

Moscow and Beijing have backed a series of U.N. Security Council sanctions resolutions against Iran since 2006. But they have criticised tougher unilateral steps by Washington and the European Union targeting Tehran's vital oil exports.

"Based on Iranian assessments, the possession of nuclear weapons would provide only a short-term regional advantage that would turn into a longer-term vulnerability," Mousavian wrote in the National Interest, a foreign policy journal.

"It would trigger a regional nuclear arms race, bringing Egypt, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia into the fold sooner or later," Mousavian, added.

Mousavian held his post before conservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took over from his reformist predecessor Mohammad Khatami in 2005.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, tweeting Mousavian's article, said "these points of view by a very well informed person are worth noting". Sweden is a member of the 27-nation EU, which has ratcheted up the sanctions pressure on Tehran.

Most Iranian politicians believe that having nuclear weapons would be an obstacle for Tehran's access to technological cooperation with developed countries, Mousavian said in the article headlined "Ten Reasons Iran Doesn't Want the Bomb".

"They do not want to see Iran come under the kind of extreme international isolation levied against North Korea," he said.

The allegation that Iran could use nuclear weapons, if it acquired them, against the United States or Israel "makes no rational sense," Mousavian said.

"Any provocation by Iran against two states that possess thousands and hundreds of nuclear weapons respectively would result in Iran's total annihilation," Mousavian said.

Israel is widely believed to have the Middle East's only atomic arsenal but neither confirms nor denies this under a "strategic ambiguity" policy to deter Arab and Iranian foes.

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Swede Charged With Shipment to Iran
(for personal use only)

A man operating an export business out of an apartment has become the first person in Sweden to be charged with violating Iranian sanctions, a prosecutor says.

His plan to ship vacuum pumps to Iran that could be used to enrich uranium unraveled when Swedish Customs conducted a random check of a shipment labeled as being headed for Dubai, Sveriges Television reported. Some boxes in the shipment had labels suggesting their final destination was Tehran.

Daniel Nord of the Swedish Agency for Non-Proliferation and Export Controls said the shipment had equipment that could be used for dairy products or fuel but was most likely to be intended for the nuclear industry.

"These are no ordinary vacuum pumps," he told SVT. "They're the kind that is necessary to enrich uranium."

The shipper was a company headquartered in an apartment in the university town of Lund in southern Sweden, the Swedish news agency TT reported.

Prosecutor Agnetha Hilding-Qvarnstrom said the defendant is the first person in Sweden to be charged with violating international sanctions aimed at curbing Iran's nuclear program. He is expected to go on trial in January.

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E.  Japan

Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Body Decides to Have 3 Foreign Advisers
Power Engineering
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Japan's nuclear regulation authority decided Wednesday during its regular meeting to appoint three prominent experts from the United States, Britain and France as external members to seek advice over its activities.

The experts are Richard Meserve, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Andre-Claude Lacoste, former chairman of the French nuclear safety authority, and Mike Weightman, the head of Britain's nuclear regulation office.

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority members plan to exchange views with the three foreign experts on Dec. 14, as the three will visit Japan to attend an International Atomic Energy Agency-sponsored ministerial conference and other related events on nuclear safety.

During the NRA's meeting Wednesday, members also looked into a problem found in the Japan Atomic Energy Agency over the inspection of a massive number of devices at the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture.

The JAEA has admitted that it skipped necessary procedures upon delaying the inspections of 9,679 devices, which is about one fourth of the total devices subject to checkups, after July 2010.

As for four devices, the JAEA changed the timing of inspection without assessing whether their safety would be affected by doing so, according to an official of the NRA secretariat.

The JAEA has said there is no problem in the safety of the Monju reactor, but the NRA secretariat thinks the company has violated the law concerning nuclear power plant regulations.

The Monju reactor first achieved criticality in 1994 but was shut down due to a serious accident involving a leak of sodium coolant and a resulting fire in 1995.

It resumed operations in May 2010, but the launch of full operations was delayed again as a device in the reactor accidentally fell inside the vessel in August that year. Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster last year, prospects of its resumption remain unclear.

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TEPCO Brings Fukushima No. 4 Reactor Fuel Assembly Removal Forward to 2014
Japan Today
(for personal use only)

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) have announced plans to remove 1,533 fuel assemblies from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant No. 4 reactor by 2014, a year ahead of schedule.

The change in schedule was announced in response to concerns that the building currently suspending the spent fuel pool above No. 4 reactor may be structurally unsound, NTV reported Tuesday.

TEPCO in June reported that the building was tilting and bulging in several places, causing fears that it could collapse, dumping thousands of fuel rods into the earth.

According to TEPCO, the No. 4 reactor was offline when the tsunami struck on March 11, 2011. As a result, 202 fresh fuel assemblies and 1,331 spent fuel assemblies were placed into the pool before the meltdowns occurred. Each assembly contains 50 to 70 rods.

The quake and tsunami caused damage to four of the plant’s six reactors and triggered three core meltdowns. The structure of the No. 4 reactor building was damaged in an explosion, causing fears that it may collapse and the pool be spilled into the earth. The structure was then later reinforced and a lid placed on the pool.

Successful debris clearance work means that extraction of the fuel assemblies is to commence a month ahead of schedule from November next year, TEPCO said. After extraction, the assemblies will be placed into two containers and moved to a common pool in which conditions are thought to be more stable.

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F.  Links of Interest

Remarks by the President at the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Symposium
Office of Press Secretary, White House
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